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Denied Extra Seat

Explorer B

Sorry for the long post.. 


I have been a raving fan of SWA for many years... however, an incident that occurred yesterday is making me question my relationship.

Over the years, I have gained a few pounds, which I've recently has made traveling less comfortable. I realized that I couldn't have my arms next to me without infringing on the person next to me... so I either need to lean forward or cross my arms. I don't particularly appreciate it when the person sitting next to me has their elbows touching my stomach. (While I don't feel obese, my doctors tell me BMI is over 35, and, wear XXL Shirts and size 40 pants at 5'9")


So, I finally decided to purchase an Extra Seat for my and my seatmate's comfort.

I called and made the reservations which went well. When I checked in for my flights, I received a security document to get through TSA and directed the gate agent.


I presented my confirmation numbers and the boarding documents I received, and the gate agent said, "you don't look fat enough" for the extra seat. I explained that I don't particularly appreciate having my arms squished and that to support SWA, I purchased a non-refundable Business Select Extra Seat. She eventually "approved" and printing my boarding pass and reserved seat ticket.


Upon boarding the flight (Business Select A2), the person scanning in the tickets said I needed to leave the boarding and visit the gate agent.

The gate agent said the flight was full and that I couldn't have the extra seat.

Eventually, I asked for a refund of the ticket and let me board the flight as they ended the A section.


Once the flight was fully boarded - I noted several vacant middle seats directly around me. So, their reason for denying my extra seat was incorrect.


I was embarrassed and horrified at this entire process.


Do the gate agents have the ability to accurately guess a customer's weight and size to determine if a second seat is allowed?


I want to know what special training the gate agents have and how they apply the rules.


(this is not a money thing... my wife and I look for flights that meet our requirements for connecting airports and times. We often fly American Airlines First Class for my comfort. )


Re: Denied Extra Seat

Aviator A

Well, that was unfortunate.  It was inappropriate for the gate agent to tell you”you are not fat enough.” Sorry to hear it happened to you.


as far as there being open seats on a full flight goes, it happens. People no show. People arrive late for the connecting flight, and miss the flight. The gate agent only knows that enough tickets are sold to fill the plane. It does happen all the time.


i’d encourage you to file a complaint with customer relations. IMO you were treated inappropriately. In you complaint be sure to include date of travel, departure and destination airports, flight number, and if you have them , the names of the offending employees.


IMO you are entitled to compensation. Your second ticket was “denied boarding.” At a minimum I’d ask for a voucher in the amount you paid for the second ticket. That would be a

Starting point.


Yours was not the typical customer service passengers have come to expect.



Re: Denied Extra Seat

Adventurer C

I'd definitely complain.  You followed protocol booking 2 seats.  By doing so, there was an additional seat for you.  Southwest doesn't overbook flights anymore, so you should have been allowed to board and have your 2nd seat.  Quite honestly, I wish more people would do this.  It makes travel easier for the person that needs a little more room and for the person who would otherwise have their seat encroached on.  I would print the policy & keep it with you in the future. 


Denied Extra Seat

Aviator C

@Lenfishman I can't even start to try and give a reply for the first encounter of someone acting like a circus weight guesser, so I won't.  As for the GA/FA saying the flight was full and you saw open seats.  Did you consider that she was actually correct?  Maybe some people didn't show up for their flight, that is a possibility.  I can't answer why they didn't honor your extra seat card.  I want to ask this.  As a suggestion file your complaint and let the process play out.  THEN, I want you to come back and post the results regardless of how long it takes.   I hope you won't be one of those who get on here and rant and then get a resolution to your issue and we never hear the outcome.  I for one would appreciate it.  As a runner, I guess I will never get to buy the extra room seat...

Re: Denied Extra Seat

Explorer B

As I stated... I've been a raving fan of SWA and often refer to them as a role model for their culture. Heck, when COVID first started... I called SWA to donate some money hoping that any little bit would help. 


I've submitted a complaint requesting a refund and additional clarification about their policies to ensure this doesn't happen in the future. 



Re: Denied Extra Seat

Explorer B

Well... I've followed the complaint process and received a refund, however never received any correspondence about the extra seat policy. 


Personally, I think SWA should create a new, non-refundable fee set for extra seat so anyone could purchase one. It would be a win-win... SWA could keep the revenue and passengers could be more comfortable on both sides of the arm-rest. 

Re: Denied Extra Seat

Explorer B

And now... the rest of the story:


I received a response from SWA on 03/18/2021. 


... "Customers who encroach upon any part of the neighboring seat(s) may proactively purchase the needed number of seats prior to travel in order to ensure the additional seat(s) is available. The armrest is considered to be the definitive boundary between seats; width between the armrests measures 17 inches. 

That said, our Customer of size policy is designed to ensure the Safety and comfort of all Customers onboard our flights. We have given our Agents guidelines for helping them assess if a Customer may be in need of a second seat, and we rely on them to maintain consistency in our application of this policy."....


As stated before, this isn't about the funds (which SWA refunded). I would gladly pay for an extra seat so I and seat mates could be more comfortable.


While the policy appears clear that the definitive boundary between seats / armrests is 17 inches... I guess the gate agents have a superpower ability to make the assessment of size. 


I'm unclear why SWA doesn't allow people to pay a non-refundable fee for an extra seat to make everyone more comfortable.